A toothless punishment for Tie Domi proves the league still tolerates gratuitous violence
When Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi blindsided Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer with a vicious elbow to the head in the waning seconds of Toronto's 3-1 victory over New Jersey in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last Thursday night, Domi did more damage than coldcocking the Devils' top puck mover. With his ugly blow Domi overshadowed a thrilling month of hockey at its postseason best and gave casual fans another reason to turn away from a sport that seems to revel in gratuitous violence.
The NHL's laughingly light punishment of Domi—he was suspended for as few as six playoff games to as many as 17 playoff and regular-season matches, depending on the Leafs' postseason fortunes—proves the league is continuing to tolerate on-ice mayhem. When commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Marty McSorley for one year for a slash to the head of the Canucks' Donald Brashear on Feb. 21, 2000, he said he was raising the bar on supplemental discipline, but the Domi decision made a mockery of Bettman's assertion (as did the fact that Toronto coach Pat Quinn, who grabbed a photographer around the neck and pushed him aside as the photographer tried to take pictures of Domi entering an NHL hearing last Friday, escaped league punishment).
Through a spokesman Bettman refused to discuss the Domi incident with SI. Colin Campbell, the NHL's chief disciplinarian, rationalized Domi's suspension by saying in a conference call that "at least the elbow is part of the body."
In a 1993 playoff game the Capitals' Dale Hunter elbowed and upended the Islanders' Pierre Turgeon into the boards, leaving Turgeon with a separated right shoulder; Hunter was banned for 21 games at the start of the ensuing season. Domi's attack on Niedermayer was even more outrageous. (Niedermayer, who suffered a concussion and missed Games 5 and 6, said mat early in the series, Domi had threatened to injure him.) Domi has faced supplemental discipline before. In 1995 he sucker punched Rangers defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, breaking Samuelsson's jaw. For that transgression Domi received an eight-game suspension.
Two days after he leveled Niedermayer, Domi appeared remorseful, especially when he recounted a conversation he'd had with his eight-year-old son, Max. Said Domi, "I told him, I made a really big mistake and Daddy's not playing hockey anymore."
The bigger mistake was that the NHL allowed Domi to cast an appalling shadow over its premier event without assessing a commensurate penalty.
Felix Potvin's Turnaround
Seems Like Old Times
When Kings goaltender Felix Potvin emerged from the trainer's room early on Monday morning, an hour after stoning the Avalanche 1-0 in a double overtime victory in Game 6 of their second-round series, his face was drawn and his voice was a whisper. "I'm tired," he said before smiling weakly, "but this is a lot of fun."
Regardless of the outcome of Game 7, which would be played on Wednesday night in Denver, this series will go down as the one in which Potvin, 29, resurrected his career. His Game 6 win was his second consecutive 1-0 shutout. Until Los Angeles, the No. 7 seed in the West, upset the second-seeded Red Wings in Round 1, Potvin, a former two-time All-Star with the Maple Leafs, hadn't won a playoff series in seven years. "I've never lost faith in myself," he says.